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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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‘Extreme interviewing’ migrates to UK from Silicon Valley


 A technique known as ‘extreme interviewing’ is starting to migrate from Silicon Valley to the UK, with the aim of helping employers distinguish the exceptional candidates from the mundane.

The idea behind the approach is to see how quickly job-seekers are able to think on their feet and, according to the Daily Mail, the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was one of its pioneers.
When dealing with candidates that he considered to be dull, for example, Jobs would launch into a chicken impression, flapping his arms around and clucking in order to see their reaction.
US search engine giant, Google, is another practitioner of the technique and has been known to prepare 50-page dossiers for candidates to read. One recent jobseeker was also reportedly asked: “You are stranded on a desert island. You have 60 seconds to choose people of 10 professions to come with you. Who do you choose? Go!”
Hi tech supplier Hewlett-Packard, on the other hand, prefers questions such as: “If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?” in reference to the former first line of their national anthem, ‘Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles’.
A current favourite among City employers, however, is to throw dinosaur-related queries at candidates such as “If you were a dinosaur, what would you be?”
Although how an individual handles the question is deemed to be more important than the response itself, people who see themselves as Tyrannosaurus Rex are apparently told: “Aha, so you’re a cannibalistic predator preying on the weak, are you?” Those answering ‘diplodocus’, however, are branded as “sexist”.
Other reportedly genuine questions include:
  • Name five uses for a stapler, without the staples.
  • On a scale of one to ten, how weird are you?
  • Are you exhaling warm air?
  • What do you think of garden gnomes?
  • Room, desk or car – which do you clean first?

2 Responses

  1. Extreme Interviewing

    I first underwent a ‘stress interview’ with a large American-owned company when I first graduated some 40 years ago.

    The most senior manager on the site – a very large and imposing gentleman – stood behind me and asked me 5 different questions in quick succession, and then said nothing else.  (I asked which question he wanted me to answer first, but he refused to answer.  So I picked the ones I could answer most easily and then started a discussion about his views.)

    I was offered the job – and declined it.  Who would want to work for such an employer?

  2. extreme interviewing – extremely rare

    This type of interview technique has been around for quite a while but is quite rare. I think the main reason is that most interviewers wouldn’t know how to process the answers and how do you compare answers against each other? If you’re looking to asssess a candidates ersonality then we would advise being direct rather than trying to trick the candidate. We perform through interviews before recommending candidates to clients, we find as they are not in such a pressure situation as a job interview they give more honest and open answers.

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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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